The All-Star Game counts as a considerable factor in the outcome of the World Series, but that doesn't mean the decidedly non-strategic element of name recognition doesn't matter in All-Star Game voting. Last year's results bleed into this year's roster, and popularity is often prioritized over same-day statistics.
We saw that in the first release of American League All-Star voting totals Tuesday, and, frankly, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the two cases where it applied most clearly.
The voting, to date, has leaned heavily toward Mike Trout (764,007) in the outfield despite what is, for him, a subpar start at the plate. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter (602,525) is comfortably atop the shortstop standings in a fitting farewell that obviously doesn't mesh with his .664 OPS entering Tuesday.
It says here that Trout will earn his keep, if he hasn't already. He quickly and confidently addresses every and any deficiency, as evidenced by his improvement in the one area of his game -- arm strength -- that had previously been open to critique. I suspect he'll soon do the same with his newfound struggles with the strike zone, hopefully curbing a strikeout rate that has saddled him with an uninspiring .279 average and the most K's in the league.
Overall, though, if "subpar" equates to a .905 OPS that ranks fourth among qualifying AL outfielders, well, that's just another way of illustrating how good Trout really has been thus far in his young career, and his added defensive brilliance makes him a deserving choice for a starting nod (his WAR, for what it's worth, is the best of any outfielder by a full point). The All-Star voters are giving Trout the kind of love the MVP voters should have in at least 2012 and possibly 2013, too.
The voters are also recognizing what the pundits have proclaimed: Trout is taking over the "Face of Baseball" title that Jeter is relinquishing. And there is no shame in giving Jeter his final All-Star props as his two decades of magic wind down.
Granted, the traveling farewell that is the Yankees' road schedule has, at times, gotten to be a bit over the top, as White Sox manager Robin Ventura so eloquently put it when he said over the weekend, "He's not dying, he's just retiring." But the Midsummer Classic stage is a perfect one for a thoughtful tip of the cap, a poignant salute from his peers and -- who knows? -- maybe another magic moment out of Jeter's bat.
No matter its impact on October outcome, the All-Star Game is still, at its core, about star power, and I, for one, am fine with the vote totals reflecting as much with those two guys.
Where the voting really gets interesting from here, though, is in the other spots, where the ballots can still be severely swayed by the particulars of performance.
As I wrote earlier this week, Cano's hollow average and Pedroia's uncharacteristically slow start mean the floor ought to be open to guys like Kinsler, Brian Dozier and Howie Kendrick. The Tigers' high attendance totals have undoubtedly aided Kinsler's cause, but, still, he deserves every vote tossed his way in what has, to date, been a strong season igniting the top of that Tigers lineup.
Miggy's May (1.067 OPS) makes this another acceptable salute of star power, and there's likely no slowing him down. But when are the voters going to recognize what Brandon Moss (.289/.377/.584) is doing out in Oakland or what Edwin Encarnacion (.262/.338/.574) is doing in Toronto? At bare minimum, they both belong in the top five. Right now, their names are nowhere to be found.
On the other hand, it's nice to see Moss' teammate, third baseman Josh Donaldson (464,367), getting the love he so dearly deserves for his impact on both sides of the ball, and it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, Matt Wieters' prolonged DL stay has on the catching vote totals he currently leads comfortably. Yet another member of the A's (gee … you think they're having a good season?), Derek Norris, would be a better choice for that spot. But he's currently third, behind Brian McCann.
One other interesting aspect of the voting: Forgiveness. The past transgressions of Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz do not appear to have hurt them any. Cabrera ranks fifth among outfielders, Cruz second among designated hitters. Both have turned in early performances worthy of acclaim.
Other than all that, the only egregious early omissions are in the outfield.
Let's back up the Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran bandwagon, Yankees fans, and instead get some votes in for the Indians' Michael Brantley (.307/.377/.516) or the Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo (.306/.435/.481) or the A's Yoenis Cespedes (.247/.310/.500), all of whom would be fine selections but are significantly behind in the balloting. Heck, Brett Gardner (.754 OPS, 11 steals) has had a more substantial impact than either of his more famous Bronx outfield peers.
This was but the first of many All-Star ballot updates, so there are many changes to come. Right now, though, it's nice to see the AL starting lineup is likely to include the former and future faces of baseball.